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Mrs. L’s Garden

Davidson Rafailidis

Buffalo, New York, United States



Stephanie Davidson (Primary Author)


John Banaszak (E.O.R.), Guy Nordenson and Associates / Brett Schneider (Structural Design Engineer)


"Mrs. L", confidential


Robert Sageder and David Sass


In this space, Mrs. L can cultivate her garden year-round and enjoy the plants, which have become her companions, in a more spatial way. The eventual scheme expands the entry area into a private garden. It’s a space with an earthen floor, questioning whether it is an interior or exterior space. The temperate space is green year-round, creating a juxtaposition of extremes in winter, when Western New York becomes extremely cold and snowy. In the warmer months, the space opens-up and becomes a semi-enclosed, welcoming entryway.
We employ a tectonic assembly of dissimilar forms – each component retains its own expression:
-The disk is cross laminated timber
-the stepped shape is a skylight
-the C that frames the new assembly at the top is the existing house façade
The tectonic relationship between house, skylight and disk, components retain independence and appear not to touch each other. The roof spans inside and out, as if there is no division.
We chose CLT as the disc material, because it can form the sculptural disc shape as a solid material and because of the structural performance of CLT.
The ambition is to create a dramatic sequence of low and high spaces, compression and expansion, a space that is again, specific in its character, but deliberately ambiguous about its use. It is the most dramatic space of the whole house, but the only one without the need for year round climate conditioning and without a dedicated normative use, a Space for Something.


Mrs. L loves to garden. The house is in need of some repair. The windows in particular, which have been replaced with vinyl framed glazing and poorly flashed over the years, require attention.
Mrs. L has house plants in every room. Some are very large, and some, like her collection of orchids, are thriving despite being notoriously finicky.
This proposal started with the need to extensively renovate all windows, cladding, and the entry door of Mrs. L’s house. The scheme eventually expanded the entry to the house into a private garden to not only address the required maintenance to the house, but also her wish for a place dedicated to her time with her plants.


The ongoing, overarching theme that we are interested in investigating through our built work is a kind of spatial antihero that we are calling “Space for Something”: a space that makes us curious, but that does not tell us how to use it or what it’s used for. We think that this type of space is the most useful in the long run. We ask: How can we create long-lasting meaning in the built environment when the architectural design process is typically focused squarely on short-term client briefs and needs?

This project is an exciting opportunity to test the notion of a “Space for Something”. Mrs L’s garden is ultimately a space without one specific function and it was not directly requested by Mrs. L in her initial brief. It offers an experience of a threshold, and the chance to enjoy being inside and outside at the same time. It is the most dramatic space in the house, but the only one without an assigned use.

Mrs. L has already started to create her own garden in this space.

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